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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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This I would say is arguably the most important and useful self-defence books on the market.


Long gone are the days where you would be advised to defend yourself from a gun with a jumping yoko-tobi geri, or other similarly impractical and dangerous techniques. This book gives you not only a vivid glimpse into the reality of violence – where flashy karate chops fall lat on their face – but it also gives you some of the most significant skills to help protect yourself.


In a crazy world, which is undeniably getting crazier, the need to protect yourself is vital. Long gone are the penned ‘good old days’ where doors could stay on their latches and children could play outside worry free. The current climate of violence is extreme and failure to prepare for this is preparing to be on the slab.


Most karate books and clubs often touch on self-defence to some extent, but in reality it’s often the neglected Cinderella of the karate syllabus which is often only allowed out as a lesson filler or so that the posters are not lying when they say ‘we offer self defence’. Sadly however, the content is often based on the ‘ideal’ – which violence is not, and is hugely inapplicable and laughable at best.


In my opinion, the thing this book best highlights is the importance of understanding ‘pre-fight’. Most self-defence guides show ‘reaction’ – which of course is important to understand, but they rarely consider ‘pre-emption’, and the other important parts that make up the time before the actual physical conflict and impact. 


Geoff Thompson has authored a wide range of hugely successful and very important texts that effectively illustrate the reality of violence. His experiences on the doors of Coventry have made him an authority on the subject, but his ability to convey all that he learned is what projected him into the Martial Art limelight through his instruction, his books and his movies.


Geoff Thompson is renown for his legendary ‘fence’. Here in ‘Dead or Alive’ he looks ate its role, how it should be used and the necessary components that work with it. Thompson has openly said that if he were to teach someone one thing to defend themselves against a violent attack it would be the ‘fence’. Interestingly enough, he comments that its simplicity and subtlety are some of the more important elements of its use and are the elements that often get neglected.


The book covers and explores a wide range of tactics; physical and non-physical. I feel that these sections of the book dealing with the understanding of conflict are particularly useful and important. He provides strategies and tactics that not only deal with the conflict once it has escalated to the point of the physical, but how to deal with it in its earlier stages.


Book Contents:


  • Author Introduction
  • Introduction by Peter Consterdine
  • Prologue by Neil Adams MBE
  • Foreword by Christopher Berry-Dee
  • Avoidance and Awareness
  • Attackers and Attack Rituals: Lessons Learned
  • Fear Control
  • The Psyche
  • Line-Ups: The Fence
  • Attacking Tools
  • Areas of Attack
  • Hands and Elbows
  • Feet
  • Knees
  • The Head
  • Chokes and Strangles
  • Throws
  • Ground Work
  • Defence Against a Weapon
  • Defence Against Multiple Attackers
  • The Knockout
  • Hurdles and Pitfalls
  • Visualisation
  • Aftermath
  • Case Histories
  • Do’s and Don’ts
  • First Aid
  • Self-Defence and the Law
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix: Drunken Style



The book is entitled ‘Dead or Alive? – The choice is yours’ which perfectly sets the scene for the content of the book. I’ve heard many karateka who say that they’ll only buy books directly related to karate. This ignorance could, if they are unlucky lead to them having a chilly time at the morgue, or if they are lucky, spending a few hours in A&E.


The content of this book, gathered through physical research in some of the roughest clubs in Coventry, is essential. If you want to make your shotokan able to stand the pressure of the street then you must understand the rules. This book is exactly that. If you can make this content integral and central to what you teach and not simply thrown in on the odd lesson about reality based fighting then you will be helping contribute to the elevation of the art of shotokan and its ability to survive ‘outside the chippy’.


Shaun Banfield